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On April 22 1993, Stephen Lawrence a promising young black man was murdered while waiting at a bus stop with his friend Duwayne Brooks . It was an unprovoked racist attack in which the young men were racially abused and then Stephen having been stabbed twice, bled to death. The attack by a gang of white youths lasted less than a minute. There were 5 initial suspects, of which two men have been convicted, finally, of murder. The overturn of the double jeopardy verdict enabled Gary Dobson to face trial again for the crime (he had previously been acquitted) along with David Norris. After 18 years, two men were found guilty of murder today. There are still 9 other people of interest that are under investigation (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...).

In 1995, the parents of Stephen Lawrence tried to bring a private prosecution against 3 of the men that were believed to be involved in the murder and the case collapsed. In 1997, Lawrence’s parents brought a complaint against the police. Evidence of massive police corruption that had hindered the prosecutions of these murderers began to pile up. David Norris's father, Clifford, is a well-known career criminal who was thought to have paid off a witness not to testify against his son and bribed the police. Questions were raised by Paul Foot (among others) as to whether he ensured that the police went easy on his son (see http://www.marxists.org/...). This is more than police incompetence, it is police complicity in a racist murder (see also, http://news.bbc.co.uk/...). In 1999, the police officers were exonerated on allegations of racism; only one officer was charged for neglect of duty with four other officers retiring before charges could be brought (http://en.wikipedia.org/...).

The failures of the police in doing a proper job of investigation (it took 2 weeks to begin the investigation), information pointing to the perpetrators was ignored by the police, accusations of police corruption and racism led to the Macpherson Inquiry (1999) which found that institutional racism in the police force was responsible for the lack of success in investigation of the murder.

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The Macpherson report led to a series of reforms of the police service to address the institutional racism found in the police force (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...) and which led to the rise of community policing. However, no change in stop and search procedures which have been demonstrated to be racially biased was ordered. Some of the changes ordered were:

The Government will establish performance indicators to monitor the handling of racist incidents, levels of satisfaction with the police service among ethnic minorities, training of family and witness liaison officers, racial awareness training, stop and search procedures, recruitment of ethnic minorities and complaints about racism in police forces.

The definition of a "racist incident" will now include incidents categorised in policing terms both as crimes and non-crimes. It will now encompass "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". A new Code of Practice will record all such crimes.

The public will be encouraged to report racist incidents by making it possible to report them 24 hours a day, and not only at police stations.

Police forces should reflect the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities they serve.

Consideration of a change in the "double jeopardy" law to enable the appeal court to allow a new prosecution after acquittal "where fresh and viable evidence is presented".  

Consideration of the proposition that victims (or their families) become "civil parties" to criminal proceedings, enabling them to have access to all relevant information in the case.

Any evidence of racist motivation to be declared at all stages of the prosecution. No exclusions on the grounds of plea-bargaining.

Review and revision of racial awareness training in police forces. Local ethnic minorities to be involved in regular training for all police.

It was the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry which enabled a new trial to be brought against Gary Dobson. By no means can it be argued that institutional racism has been eliminated in the UK; that is evident from disproportional numbers of people of colour in prison and in stop and search procedures used by the police (which certainly was responsible for the riots in Hackney last summer). However, the Macpherson report was the first inquiry that formally recognised the existence of institutional racism in policing and in the judicial system and it was a major step forward (earlier investigations denied the existence of institutional racism).

The investigation of forensic evidence beginning in 2007 is what led to the verdict of guilty of murder after 18 years.  Blood, a hair, some fibres and a massive inquiry and examination of policing and the judicial system have enabled this result. Stephen Lawrence is buried in Jamaica, his murder led to serious examination and reflections on racism in the UK. Some justice, but far too late; but better than never.

Originally posted to NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 07:36 AM PST.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Chat, Barriers and Bridges, Global Expats, and Erase the Hate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 07:36:07 AM PST

  •  This verdict is a major step towards achieving (15+ / 0-)

    some measure of justice for Stephen Lawrence. A young black man murdered by a gang of white teenagers while waiting at a bus stop in a racist attack. 18 years his family has fought desperately for justice in the face of racism, incompetence and obstruction by the police.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 07:49:57 AM PST

  •  I'm glad justice was served, but ... (6+ / 0-)

    the overturning of double jeopardy leaves me seriously concerned. Double jeopardy exists for a reason. That aspect leaves me very worried for how prosecutions against unpopular defendants might be handled in the future.

    •  Agreed, I found it extremely disconcerting (6+ / 0-)

      as well.

      In the US they have gotten around double jeopardy for racist murders by charging murderers with violations of civil rights of their victims after having been freed by racist juries for murder. Double jeopardy can only be overturned if fresh new forensic evidence is obtained which brings the original prosecution into doubt.

      But I agree, this is very dangerous as those that may be unpopular for public reasons may face repeated prosecutions until convicted. This case was predicated upon forensic evidence that was capable of analysis back when the initial trial was conducted in which Gary Dobson was acquitted of murder.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 07:57:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What is the law in the UK (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, wyldraven, ilovecheese

        ...regarding double jeopardy?  Is it basically an appeal process?  In the US, as you note, different charges can be prosecuted, but not the original.

        GOP Agenda: Repeal 20th Century.

        by NormAl1792 on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 08:22:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I believe that a fresh trial can be ordered if (5+ / 0-)

          sufficient fresh information can be presented to warrant a new prosecution on the same charges. So, it was not an appeal on the part of the prosecution, it was a new trial with new evidence on the same charges. The jury was offered the choice of murder, manslaughter or acquittal with respect to the same crime. This is a change in the law.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 08:31:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  the prosecution applied to the High Court (5+ / 0-)

            in light of new evidence to quash the acquittal of Gary Dobson and to order a new trial. The High Court agreed.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 08:50:24 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The new evidence (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wyldraven, NY brit expat

              was primarily a re-examination of the forensic evidence that was not available at the first trial. That was instigated as a private prosecution by the Laurence family and collapsed because of insufficient evidence.

              The re-examination of the clothing from the two suspects found tiny blood spots - smaller than the head of a pin - that had soaked into the fibres of a jacket and small single hairs.

              The re-examination found evidence so minute that the forensic techniques at the time of the first investigation could not process them - especially the amount of a sample needed to do a DNA analysis.

              What is highly likely is that the two convicted did not inflict the fatal blow although in English law they are still guilty because of "common cause". In part that was revealed by Norris's outburst after the verdict and his counsel's plea in mitigation.

              Evidence that would convict those directly responsible was probably destroyed on the instructions of Norris's father who was later to pass on his profession of drug distributer to his son.

              Fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

              by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 11:25:28 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Exactly, the forensic analysis available at the (0+ / 0-)

                time would not have caught it; but then again more evidence may have been available if the police had moved quicker in response to information.

                I thought that it was Dobson that denied actually inflicting the knife wounds and insisted that he was innocent; wouldn't surprise me if Norris had done the same though.  Thanks for clarifying the notion of common cause; I am wondering if it is similar to felony murder in the US or whether they are considered to be equally responsible because they acted as a group and hence bear liability.

                "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 11:36:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NY brit expat

                  To be honest I have not paid too much attention to the pleas in mitigation. I also cannot remember which of their mothers gave sworn evidence that her son was with her the whole evening of the murder. I sincerely hope she will be prosecuted for perjury.

                  The "common cause" went to whether the group went out with the intention of causing serious injury (ie premeditation which is part of the criteria for murder) or whether it was an unplanned incident, which could have meant a manslaughter conviction.

                  Also, I do not think we should pass without mentioning Stephen's mother Doreen who, as well as campaigning for justice for her son has also set up a charity to provide a bursary for other talented black young people to study architecture.

                  Fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

                  by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 12:22:47 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think that was Dobson's mother; I also (0+ / 0-)

                    sincerely hope that they charge her with perjury as well as perverting the cause of justice (if that is a crime here, I am not a lawyer and do not know the law here as strongly as I do in the US).

                    Thank you for reminding me to raise the charity established by Doreen Lawrence, The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust - Promoting Social Justice by Providing Access and Opportunities for All:

                    http://stephenlawrence.org.uk/

                    I cannot believe I forgot to raise it, my only excuse is tiredness and that is a poor one indeed! Thanks again for clarifying common cause; that was not explained clearly by the BBC and that also would be relevant for the claims that Stephan Lawrence actually said something to provoke the act that was part of the misinformation. Really appreciated.

                    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                    by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 01:06:03 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  If the investigation was corrupt (7+ / 0-)

      jeopardy never attached, as the suspects were never at risk of prosecution due to misconduct by law enforcement. That holds true even in this country with some case law to support it.

      Trump / Palin 2012: "You're Fired / I Quit"

      by MKSinSA on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 08:53:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the investigation was corrupt, there was evidence (4+ / 0-)

        of police corruption (including bribery by a career criminal), a deliberate campaign of misinformation arguing that Stephen Lawrence has spoken to his killers before he was murdered trying to claim that they were provoked (this was untrue), the witness to the crime (Duwayne Brooks) was abused and information passed to the police was deliberately ignored (a letter was sent to them with information).

        Thanks MKSinSA, I am unfamiliar with procedures in these situations in both the US and UK; this case was incredibly notorious not only in the UK, but internationally as well, Nelson Mandela commented on the case calling for justice for Stephen Lawrence.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 09:02:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I hope Stephen's family can find some measure of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, MKSinSA, wyldraven

    peace in this.  The pain of losing a child is unbearable.

    •  the loss of a child is unbearable, the loss in (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MKSinSA, wyldraven, joanbrooker

      this manner, with 18 years of a fight for justice and against racism and police incompetence and corruption has certainly been nightmarish for them. There are still others that are guilty, and we can only hope that the evidence is brought forward that can lead to their conviction.

      Stephen's mother said today was not a day of celebration and that if the police had done their job properly she would have spent 18 years grieving for her son instead of fighting for justice for his mother. It was his family that led this fight, that pushed so hard for justice for their murdered son.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 10:04:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just saw this on BBC News (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    I feel for his parents to have gone through all this. I hope this decision brings them some peace.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

    by kimoconnor on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 02:47:04 PM PST

    •  I hope that they find some peace, it is a (0+ / 0-)

      verdict that is long over-due and his parents and supporters have worked very hard for this moment. I suspect that finding peace after fighting for so long and so hard is difficult but my strongest hopes and best wishes go out to them.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 03:04:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It took way too long, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    but I'm relieved that justice was finally served. Will other old cases get another look? Surely, this can't be the only one out there.

    •  You are probably correct that there are other (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      psychodrew

      cases out there. This case was notorious though and had wide ranging implications for british justice and police procedures and policing. There are certainly other cold cases. This one is not over though, the two convicted claimed not to have actually done the killing, perhaps they will offer evidence to convict the others. As LibDemFop says above, most of the hard evidence was destroyed probably under the orders of Clifford Norris.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 08:08:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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